I’ve seen Rene Denfeld’s book around a lot, but never really looked into it until a coworker loaned me her copy. Let me just say, it’s an intense read and could be very triggering for anyone who has faced sexual abuse or abduction.
The Child Finder is the first in a series about Naomi, a PI who was herself a missing child. She remembers nothing of her life until, at 8 years old, she stumbles into the camp of some migrant workers who take her to a sheriff they trust a half a day’s drive away. Now, Naomi is dedicated to finding other missing children.
She takes on the case of Madison Culver, missing three years. Naomi is the last hope, though after that long, hope is a single thread. Naomi sets herself to the case with single-minded attention, hoping to find something that the local law enforcement and search parties missed. Something that suggests Madison is still alive, but anything that will give the family closure. During the course of her investigation, Naomi finds more than she bargained for, uncovering the hurts of the past, hers and others’.
The story is written in unique style that at first glance seemed like it would be annoying, but quickly resolved itself into a good stylistic choice. The chapters flow from Naomi’s current perspective to flashbacks from her childhood in a foster home, interspersed with narrative from an imaginative child, whom we quickly learn is using her imagination to deal with the trauma of her situation. You might have a chapter that flows through all three narrative styles with little more than a paragraph break to clue you in, but the slightly jagged style fits well with the story.
I’ll confess, I am growing tired of the trend that all thrillers have to have a premise in sexual abuse. This one especially concerned me when I started in, seeing as how it dealt with children. But Denfeld isn’t explicit, instead briefly visiting those moments from an innocent child’s eyes, someone who wouldn’t have words to vividly describe what happened. I would have preferred almost any other premise, though.
My only other quarrel with the book was a red herring trail in the second half of the book, when you know what’s going on and where Naomi needs to go, but, despite the evidence that seems glaring to us, the omniscient readers, Naomi goes in a different direction. This little jaunt of the story added words, sure, but didn’t add much else to the story.
While definitely an interesting story, and well written, this is definitely a book I have to be careful with recommending. It’s a sensitive subject and definitely is not a book that appeals to all readers.